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The ‘Israeli’ keffiyeh: just more petty antagonism
In the latest tit-for-tat war over cultural symbols, a group of “young, hip US Jews” has created a version of the traditional Arab headdress emblazoned with the Star of David.
February 2, 2010 10:44 by kippreport
The Jerusalem Post attempts to cast it as a trendy accessory for “young, hip US Jews”. But it doesn’t take an expert on Middle Eastern affairs to tell you what the so-called ‘Israeli’ keffiyeh is about. For it’s simply next petty provocation in an ongoing tit-for-tat war over cultural symbols.
According to the newspaper, a Jewish music label in New York has started selling a version of the traditional Arab headdress, emblazoned with the Star of David and the Hebrew slogan “Am Israel Chai” (“The Nation of Israel Lives”) embroidered into the fabric.
“It might be considered by some as a symbol of Palestinian “resistance” or solidarity, but for a group of young, hip US Jews, wearing a keffiyeh – especially one with blue embroidered Stars of David – is just as much their right as anyone else’s,” said the Jerusalem Post.
DJ and producer Erez Safar, founder and director of Brooklyn-based Shemspeed, which sells the ‘Israeli’ keffiyeh, said that it was created “for the unity it creates among Jews”.
Safar released a statement on the Shemspeed website, ostensibly “in order to prevent anyone from taking offense”.
“Jews indigenous to the Middle East, such as my family is, have worn some variation of the “kefyah” (cap/kippah) and keffiyah (head/neck scarves) for thousands of years. The original purpose of the scarves, was to provide protection from the sun and sand. When it comes to religious observance, the Muslim tradition of head covering originates from the Jewish tradition,” claimed Safar on the website.
“The black and white Keffiyah, idolized in the 1960s by Yasser Arafat, has become the symbol of the Palestinian resistance movement. The way that symbols are politicized and used to divide people, rather than as common ground for discussion and dialogue is exactly the kind of thought-provoking topic that we at Shemspeed explore,” the statement added.
Safar knows exactly what he’s doing. The ‘Israeli’ keffiyeh has not been created to keep off the notoriously hot sun or blinding sandstorms that hit Brooklyn at this time of year. It’s an attempt to make a mockery of this symbol of Palestinian nationalism.
As The National points out today, the likely row over a ‘Jewish’ keffiyeh will be the latest in a series of clashes over cultural symbols in the Middle East. In 2008, for example, a group of Lebanese businessmen announced plans to sue Israel to stop it from marketing hummus and tabouleh as ‘Israeli’.
But the creation of the ‘Israeli’ keffiyeh has somewhat raised the stakes. Safar has taken direct aim at this instantly-recognizable Arab symbol, and personal trademark of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Are these “young, hip US Jews” simply deluded, or are they being consciously antagonistic?